Monday, February 28, 2011

It's HOT

Yes, it's hot.  I mean REALLY HOT.  And it's been this way in Western Australia for well over a week with no end in sight.  The perdiction is that it will stay in the mid to high 30's (98-100F) throughout this entire week.  As our home has evaporative air installed throughout with only one room with refrigerated air, I'm melting 99% of the time.  DH and I even slept in the living room last night on our camp beds with the A/C on full blast just so we could get a good nights sleep without the oppressive heat.   Being from New York, I'm much more accustomed to temperate temperatures.  I've turned into a highly grumpy individual at the moment.  My poor husband. 

And so I haven't even looked in the direction of my sewing room which is located as far away from the refrigerated air as possible.  Though I have hand sewing that has followed me to the living room, the heat has zapped all my energy and I'm not getting much of that done either.

I typed a nice post over the weekend I planned to put here with photographs of a few quilts I've completed, but to put it up I would have to go outside and photograph the quilts.  No way.  I won't even go outside right now to hang laundry on the line!

Tomorrow is the first day of autumn here in Australia (but really there's only two seasons in WA - hot and wet).  I'm hoping, praying, the heat wave will end soon before my husband divorces me.

Thinking cool thoughts......

Monday, February 21, 2011

Organization = Peace

I find it very hard indeed to do anything productive in a mess. 
I know there are people out there who can have things piled almost to the ceiling and still always be able to pull out exactly the thing they need from it in a split second, but I’m not one of them.  I need organization.  A tidy space equals a tidy mind to me.  When my sewing room is in order I can put on nice music (maybe some Stacie Kent or Madeline Pryroux...) and get in the zone and my creativity flows.  My creative self works best in a well organized space.  Unfortunately right now my sewing room is complete chaos.  There are boxes piled well past waist height waiting to be moved and my usual sewing tables that are so invaluable to me in being able to spread out a project have been taken down for use temporarily elsewhere.  All I have to work on is the left side of my computer desk and the extended table to my sewing machine.  That’s it.  Now every time I head into my sewing room, that wonderful room that used to be my refuge from the busy-ness of the day,  my brain gets assaulted with STUFF everywhere.  It’s disheartening and completely counterproductive.    I know this is a temporary situation and once we’ve moved things about to where we need them it will be fine.  But it’s still disturbing to me not to have this little corner of my peaceful world taken away.    It’s also sort of frightening to recognize how easily my mental chi can be thrown off by such a silly thing.  Wow,  I need to toughen up!
So since 2011 is destined to be a year of change for my family I have to get my head in the right place and accept a few truths.  Such as not everything is going to be organized and in its proper place.  That change is a blessing and a curse.  That a fulfilling life is not stagnant.   Flexibility in mind and body breeds content.  And finally, that as long as I have my mobile hand sewing kit I’ll always be able to find a peaceful  sewing space because really, peace is all in the mind. 
Ooooommmmm, Ooooommmmm.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I HEART Mac, why doesn’t EQ?

My husband and I have made a big decision in our lives for 2011 - we’ve decided to switch from PC to Mac.
I’ve gotten a jump on this process already as during the middle of last year I got a cute little white Macbook.   I’ve always been a bit computer savvy and have used lots of different computers and Macs before.  But for the past 10 years or so most computers I’ve been exposed to at work and the platform we use at home have been PC.  The big change over started with my little Mac. 
My husband has experienced his frustrations with PCs throughout the years but never seemed interested in taking the ultimate leap of faith and switching platforms at home.  It wasn’t until he experienced the magic of the ‘i’ that he began thinking a complete switch over might be desirable.  It started with the iPod and has progressed to the iPad.  For him it was love at first touch.  Now we have our eye on two new iMacs to replace our home PCs.  I’m more than happy about this really and have only one hesitation – Electric Quilt only runs on the PC platform. 
I’m still running EQ6 and it presently lives on my old PC laptop (which only gets used now for EQ).  When we make the big switch to Mac hopefully within the next month or so I’ll still need to keep my old Acer running just so that I’ll have EQ still available. 
I have to vent my frustrations here at the makers of Electric Quilt and their short-sightedness in not making their program more readily available to a wider audience on multiple platforms.  I do understand that Apple in general is more demanding of program developers and that their requirements to produce software in Apple’s platform are more stringent than PC.  But think of the client base EQ is losing by not making available to the Mac user, i.e. Mac based quilters, of their fantastic product.  I know there is some kind of program out there that lets Mac users ‘use’ PC programs by emulating a PC environment.  But why would I want to do that?  If I own a Mac than I want to work within the Mac environment – it seems to be a no brainer to me. 
After doing a search I’ve found that EQ’s competitor, Quilt Pro offers their software for Mac.  I guess I’ll have to seriously consider making the switch to them shortly as I’m petrified my old Acer will soon be going to that great computer cemetery in the sky and consequently my EQ with it.  If you’ve read my earlier post entitled ‘2+2=8’ you’ll understand my stress.  I’ve come to really rely on the marvel of modern technology to take the thinking out of quilting for me so that I can enjoy the best part – the sewing.  Doing the calculations for the blocks and all the mathematical stuff around it is not my cup of tea.
I NEED my EQ! – or I’ll NEED whatever equivalent exists  that will run on a Mac.  I live in fear of having to return to my rulers.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Everything Old is New Again

I like old sewing implements.  
If I ever win the lottery one of the first things on my wish list to purchase is going to be a lovely but hideously expensive 18th century sewing kit.  I love the history as well as the beauty of sewing objects like this.  And I love that so many of them were practical items in use.  I'm not a saver myself when it comes to fine household things.  I USE my grandmother’s china and the good flatware and the exquisite tea set.  Of course I would be heartbroken if any of those pieces got broken in use but I think its more heart breaking to never have used them at all.  When I think of the many items in my mother’s house that only collect dust because she considered them too good to actually use, I feel sad.  In all the years my mother has owned those fine items, practically never has she let herself discover the joy of using them herself.  That's not going to be me.  So, if I'm ever fortunate enough to own an antique sewing kit I'm going to have a great time using it in the creation of my own pieces of history.

One antique sewing item I have been able to afford is a vintage sewing machine -  well, three of them actually.  I have a 1923 Singer Egyptian decaled hand crank, a 1937 White Family treadle and a 1952 beige colored electric Singer A300.  Of those three my favourite to use has been the 1923 Singer hand crank.  The quilt I have on my bed right now was pieced mostly on it.  I think the reason why I’m especially fond of using the hand crank is the silence.  There’s no electrical buzz, no beeps, no sound at all except for the lifting arm causing the needle to move up and down through the fabric.  There’s a zen to using this bygone technology that I don’t get using my super-duper modern marvel of a machine.  But having said that I wouldn’t give up my Janome 6600P for the world!  

Zen.  Meditation.  Internal contemplation.  
Maybe these are the things I get from my hobby of quilting and more specifically from hand piecing.  As I work the fabric with my hands my brain wanders and drifts from one topic to another like hyperlinks on the Internet.  And if I had one of those wonderful turn of the century (or older...) sewing kits it would just add to my already pleasurable sewing experiences.  

Come on lottery - Momma needs an old pair of scissors!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Progress on the process of creating the Civil War quilt

As I've taken the 'Process Pledge' promising to discuss more throughly my process in creating a quilt or piece of art, I thought I should post about the progress I'm making on the Civil War quilt.

Though this particular project is a year long one and I don't know what patterns will be posted as the 52 weeks pass, I've decided to do a quilt-as-you-go quilt.  I've decided on this for a few reasons.  One, I'd like to have it completed at the end of the year instead of as 52 individual blocks left collecting dust in the corner of my sewing room with good intentions to completed it, but don't.  And two, since it's a reproduction style quilt I'd like to hand quilt it.  Hand quilting a large quilt can take AGES.  I know, I've done it.  Doing this one as a quilt-as-you-go will ease the burden of lots of quilting at once and spread it out over the whole year and make it a very managable project to take with me and work on.  So, now that you know my reasoning, heres my progress.

First, I squared off the 8 1/2 inch block so all the blocks are exactly the same size.  I then decided to add a 1 1/2 inch boarder around the outside of each block.  This boarder is the same fabric for every block for continunity purposes.  I added this because I need fabric to connect everything together once they're quilted and the 8 1/2 inch block just didn't give me enough to play with. 

I then drew a quilt motif on the block.  This motif will be the same for all the blocks - again for continunity.

I then sandwiched the back, batting and top block together and basted.  I decided to use a natural, off-white back and 100% wool battering in keeping with the antique look of the quilt.

I've quilted and completed one block so far and I'm happy with the outcome.  The real 'proof of the pudding' will be when all 52 blocks are completed and I have to put it all together.  But I won't have to worry about that until the end of the year.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

And the list goes on...

I think with quilting, like so many things in life for me, its feast or famine.  Either I’m really into my sewing projects and work on them constantly, or I’m completely indifferent and have no desire to pick up a needle and thread.  I wish I were a bit steadier in my textile life.  I’m certain I’d get a lot more projects completed if I were. 

I like to think of myself as a finisher but with the amount of UFO’s I have piling up I’m starting to question that definition.  I do get things completed – eventually.  I just have to stay mindful of how many projects I have on the go at any one time.  I did a count not that long ago and it goes like this:

  • 1 appliqué project (this is my first REAL appliqué project and I’m finding it stressful so I think that’s why I put it down.  Of course piecing an American Eagle as my first project wasn’t the smartest move)
  • 1 baby quilt for my new grandson who isn’t so new anymore.  He’ll be 1 in March. 
  • 1 modern wall hanging
  • 1 maple leaf quilt that’s completely sandwiched and ready for quilting.
  •  4 quilt tops that still need sandwiching and eventual quilting
  • 1 quilt with all the blocks completed but not yet assembled.  However I’ve found I don’t really like the quilt anymore so I think I’ll cannibalize it for another project. 
  •  3 hand piecing projects all in different stages of completion.  One, a double wedding ring is quite far along.  I think I need to stop piecing more blocks now and begin putting what I already have together and see how large the quilt is.  Originally it was going to be a king sized quilt but we downsized recently to a queen size bed – thank God!
  • 1 mystery quilt that I’ve lost interest in.  Maybe because my chosen colors were orange and it’s not really ‘speaking’ to me anymore.  Or maybe it’s just speaking too loudly.
  •  And I’m working on the yearlong project of Barbara Brachman’s Civil War quilt.  Thank goodness I don’t have to actually worry about COMPLETION until the end of the year.  Though I must say I’m keeping up with each weeks post.  She’s posted 6 so far and I’ve completed them all but 1 (the appliqué stars.  I think I don’t really like appliqué)
So, can I still call myself a finisher?  I suppose I can since very few of these projects will linger too long without finally reaching completion.  Sometimes I wish I were a bit faster in concluding projects but then again I really enjoy the process itself.  I like spending time with the textiles.  For me it’s like being a kid again.  My Dad was a dye chemist and when I was very young he would bring home samples of fabrics with new dye techniques.  My mother would put them through the ‘housewives’ test of washing and ironing them and then give him feedback.  I remember all the textiles would eventually end up in the laundry room and that’s where I got to play with them.  So really what I do now in quilting is just a continuation on the playing I did as a child. 

So in summary, yes, it’s important to finish a project and I am a finisher but I find the most joy in the doing.  Maybe that’s why my list is so long – I’m having so much fun!

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Civil War so far...

I thought it was time to post some pictures of the progress I’m making on the Civil War quilt.

I’ve actually caught up to all the blocks posted so far from the blog. I’ve kept true to form on all but one block. It’s the appliquéd stars block. I’m not good with appliqué. Though I can DO IT, I’ve found I don’t enjoy it much. I just feel stressed out because I’m too concerned my stitches are going to show instead of just enjoying the process. So I decided to create a replacement for this block.

As you can see the replacement is a singular star instead of 5 small stars. And my new block is pieced, not appliquéd. I wanted this pieced block to look a bit ‘whonky’ in keeping with the spirit of the folkish, antiqueness of what I think the quilt will eventually be.

I also decided I’m going to make this a ‘quilt-as-you-go’ quilt. Meaning now that I’ve squared them all off at 8 ½ inches, I’m going to add a border of around 1 or 1 ½ inches around each and then sandwich it with batting and backing and quilt it. I’ll leave enough room at the border to attach it to other blocks once they’re all done. I won’t attach as I go because I want to see all the blocks first before determining how I’d like to arrange them. Also because I don’t know yet if the final arrangement will be row by row or on point, I’ll make my quilting pattern for each block the same and probably in a circular motif. I haven’t decided yet what the pattern will be. I’m going to research a bit on the popular quilting patterns of the day and see what I come up with.

I’m really enjoying this project. It’s a bit refreshing to present myself with only one block to achieve in a week and not have to concern myself with an entire quilt all at once.

I’d love to get feedback from others undertaking this year long process. What are your thoughts?

and P.S.  I really have to improve my photography on this site!  I take all my pictures with my iPhone even though I have a beautiful semi-professional camera at my disposal.  What can I say - I'm lazy.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Post a Quilting Secret

WARNING:  This post is going to be a bit off quilting topic.

I have a couple of blogs I check out on a regular basis.  Many are quilt or sewing related but some I just find interesting.  One that I regularly refer back to is Post a Secret.  This is the URL:

An acquaintance of mine turned me onto this site years ago and now checking it out on Monday’s has become a habit.  Since I have my BS in Social Anthropology I find anything related to social interaction and individual motivation as it relates to groups really interesting.  This site is about releasing secrets.  The concept is brilliant.  An individual mails (most are snail mailed, not emailed) a creatively made postcard with his or her secret written on it.  These are then posted on the blog.  It’s a fantastic concept.  You, as an individual get to release a secret to the world anonymously.  How freeing is that?  The secrets are varied.  Some are a bit twisted - some really funny - others perfectly innocent.  And  many, many of them are so touching in their honesty and candour.

More than once I’ve been moved to tears at these secrets.  A recent series of posts have been added as voice clips (this is new to the site as it used to only be through mail but I think it’s now expanding into other technologies...) with explanatory text along side.  One was written by a granddaughter who posted her grandmother singing happy birthday.  Her grandmother would sing it to her each year on her birthday and she saved one year from a voice mail.  Her grandmother died in 2009.  This girl now sends her grandmothers voice clip to people in her family on their birthday – keeping her grandmothers memory alive in a very special way.

I’ve thought about sending in a secret or two, but never do.  It isn’t that I don’t have secrets.  Don’t we all?  I just don’t know if mine would be very interesting to anyone other than me.  Geez, I’m boring.

Perhaps I could start a Post a Quilting Secret site.  And here would be my first post – my own secret.

I almost NEVER change my sewing machine needle until it breaks!  Oh, the shame!!!!

What’s your secret?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

'They call me Mellow Yellow...."

I think yellow is a fantastic color.  I love yellow in my clothing (though believe me I don’t walk around looking like a banana...) and yellow as a color for wall paint.  So naturally I like a little yellow in my quilts too.

These are two Mariners Compass blocks I’m working on that bring yellow to the next level.  They’re bright but not blinding – and of course, there’s just a hint of glitter within.  I don’t have an overall plan for these pieces but I don’t think I’m going to make an entire quilt.  I have one more in the works so with three of them they could be good pillow cases or put together and hung vertically a nice wall hanging or even framed separately and hung together on a wall to make an interesting grouping.  I’ll definitely hand quilt them to finish them off as these have all been hand pieced.  They still need pressing so they’ll look a bit more flattened and crisp once I put them under the iron.

Whatever they become I know I’ll enjoy looking at them because they just scream ‘happy’ to me. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Thank you for being a friend....

Encarta English Dictionary defines a friend as:  friend (noun) 1. Somebody emotionally close; somebody who trusts and is fond of another.  2.  Acquaintance; somebody who thinks well of or is on good terms with somebody else.  3.  Ally; an ally, or somebody who is not an enemy.
I have been on an emotional roller coaster for the past two days.  I recognize I am a super sensitive person inside with a hard outside veneer.    I can appear to be the strongest dividual in a crisis but close the door and my veneer very easily cracks and I become a babbling fool.  This I realize must be hard on my friends.  ‘Do I call her?’  ‘Is she ok?’
I’ve moved around a lot in my life from one States to another, from one country to another.  And the one thing that has always seen me through in my many shift in local have been my friends.  I have some wonderful friends.  Where family may have let me down, friends have always been there to help repair my veneer and make me feel loved.  During this bush fire crisis it truly hit home to me the depth of my friendships and how the miles between us very easily melt away with only a few heartfelt words.
I received sooo many emails and Facebook messages from friends of mine that I haven’t seen face to face in decades saying they heard on the news about the Perth bush fires and was I and my family well.  I even heard by email from a collage friend living now in Alabama who I haven’t seen since 1986 saying she wished she could be here with me in support.  It warms my heart and brings tears to my eyes to know I have cultivated friendships that strong and lasting.
I hope I live up to the old adage – ‘to have a friend you have to be a friend.’
To all my friends far and wide who let me know I was in their thoughts, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your supportive words and wishes.  It means the world to me.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bush Fire

Its amazing how quickly life can change.

Yesterday and today bush fires continue to rage through a very close community to our home here in Perth and is touching our lives in a very intimate way.  My stepson and his wife and children’s home is right in the middle of the fire storm.  I’m thankful that this morning all seems well for them and unlike their neighbour across the street who’s home burnt to the ground, they’re house seems to be past the danger at this point.  

It was a frightening day yesterday to realize that all you love is in threat.  Of course when I write this I mean the people, because things are just things.  But once you know everyone is safe and secure, you have to then face the reality of the loss of what was once your home and your belongs.  This is another kind of sorrow.

If my home, God forbid, were destroyed in a fire, what would I loose in material possessions that couldn’t be replaced?  Things related to memories of course.  Photographs of my father and grandparents long gone; quilts and textiles I’ve created and received as gifts that are all one of a kind, a sewing kit that belonged to my beloved grandmother she passed on to me, personal memento’s of my history in the form of jewellery and knick-knacks and such and the list would go on.  Even though the loss of each and every one of these items would grieve me, in the end I know, and my heart knows, they’re just things.

As I told my daughter-in-law yesterday, everything that is important in life is with her right now.  Her family is safe.

My heart goes out to all those families still struggling through this time.  I pray they all remain safe and the important things in their life are with them just like mine.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Quilting Bee

One of the great aspects about working for an educational institution is the constant exposure to intellectual discussions on every topic imaginable.  At University level not only are the theory of issues debated and examined but also the processes of how and why any particular subject is studied.  And in this wonderful array of deep and meaningful subject matter to life, quilting is also included.

Our campus library is a wonderful place.  I just adore libraries.  They’re filled to the rim with books on all the knowledge I’ll spend my whole life trying to know.  I was introduced to the wonders of the library at a very young age.  My mother, always on the cutting edge of everything remotely educational, would bring hers and her sisters children to story hour once a month at the Adriance Memorial Library in our hometown.  There she got a much needed break from six bothersome kids and we got to hear classic stories read out loud that were written by Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen and Mother Goose.  My favorite fairytale of all times is Thumbelina.  But I’m getting away from the topic of this post...... Lets just say I have a love affair with books that started at a very young age.

Here in our University library is a fantastic section on textiles.  In my search for all things quilty I discovered the most interesting book entitled ‘Quilting, the fabric of everyday life’ by Marybeth Stalp.  Here is what the dust cover says:
  • Title: Quilting : the fabric of everyday life / Marybeth C. Stalp.
  • Author/Creator: Marybeth C. Stalp
  • Subjects: Quilting -- Anecdotes ; Quilting -- Psychological aspects
  • Description: Introduction, why quilting -- Tripping through the tulips, doing research close to home -- It's not just for grannies anymore, learning to quilt at midlife -- The guilty pleasures of the fabric stash -- Quilt rhymes with guilt, finding the time and space to quilt -- Coming out of the closet, quilting is for self and for others -- Piecing it all together.
    Quilting, once regarded as a traditional craft, has broken through the barriers of history, art and commerce to become a global phenomenon, international multi-billion dollar industry and means of gendered cultural production. In Quilting, sociologist and quilter Marybeth C. Stalp explores how and why women quilt." "This close ethnographic study illustrates that women's lives can be transformed in often surprising ways by the activity and art of quilting. Some women who quilt as a leisure pastime are too afraid to admit to being a quilter for fear of ridicule; others boldly identify themselves as quilters and regard it as part of their everyday lives."
    "The place of
    quilting in women's lives affects core family and personal identity issues such as marriage, childcare, friendship and aging. The book's accessible and intimate portrayal of real quilters' lives provides a fabric for the sociology, anthropology and textile student to understand more about wider issues of cultural production and identity that stem from this very personal pastime."--BOOK JACKET.
I checked out the book and read it cover to cover in a few short days.  It was so insightful into the dynamics of the core of what I believe quilting is about.  I’ve always viewed quilting and quilt groups as not only a means to creating something that can be art as well as function, but also a very important aspect of women’s social engagements.  I can create a quilt in solitude.  But the magic happens when I create a quilt amongst women of like minds engaging in the most important of all human needs, social interaction.

So here’s to the quilt group, the guild, the quilting bee, and the sewing circle.  Without whose support, laughter, encouragement, and occasionally tears, I would be a lesser quilter – and certainly a lesser woman.

Friday, February 4, 2011

From one generation to another...

Tomorrow I get to spend the afternoon with my six year old granddaughter.  

I just love saying I have a granddaughter for multiple reasons.  First and foremost because without my wonderful second husband (and as I jokingly say to him, my present husband...) I wouldn't have any grandchildren at all.  I married a man with a grown son and I'm blessed to have a warm and lovingly relationship with him and his wife and through them, two beautiful grandchildren.  It touches my heart every time I'm called grandma because I realize what a privilege that is.  And secondly, because I'm just not old enough yet to be a grandmother!   To have these grandchildren I would have had to have given birth at 15 - and this is not the case.   I was smart.  I married into the joy of grandma-hood without the years of tween or teenage angst.  

I've been teaching my beautiful granddaughter what my grandmother taught me - how to sew.  And I have to brag (as all devoted grandmothers do...) that she's really learning well.  I started by letting her play with the fabric and being fascinated by the colors.  We then moved into her sitting beside me at the sewing machine and pressing the numbers on the digital keypad needed to sew the fancy stitches.  Next we picked up needle and thread and sewed little handbags and coin purses by hand.  For Christmas this year I gave her her own sewing box complete with all the important sewing implements as well as playful bits like beaded trims and ribbons.   This progression of learning has been happening slowly over the course of a year or more - just like I learned from my grandmother.  Sometime soon I'll suggest to her that we work on a small dolly quilt together and the seed of growing a new generation of quilter will be planted.

There is something wonderful about passing on a skill such as sewing and quilting to the next generation.  Not all of us quilters learned at our grandmothers knees and some had to seek out these skills on their own.  I think for us fortunate ones, the ones who had a loving hand guide us in our first attempts at sewing one patch to another, the act of sewing isn't only to reach the ultimate goal of creating a quilt or piece of clothing.  The process takes on a meaning of it's own remembering the first time you achieved a straight line and the fuss grandma made of it.

But perhaps now that I'm in my dotage I look too much to the 'spiritual' (for lack of a better term...) side of my craft.  That's what happens when you become a grandmother.  You get all emotional when you see even a small glimmer of yourself in the eyes of a six year old.

Civil War Revisited

Barbara Bachman is a wonderful quilt artist and quilt historian who mainly specializes  in creating and researching Civil War era quilts.  For 2011, which is the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War, she has begun a  blog that has instructions to create a historical block each week with stories about the war between the states behind it.  I stumbled onto this site this by accident when reading though some of the quilting blogs I follow.   I've never participated in any kind of block of the month before (and this one is technically not one...) so doing this will be a bit a change for me.  I really love the look of Civil War reproduction quilts and have created a quilt top just last year using reproduction fabrics that still needs quilting before I can use it on my bed.  I've completed four of the five blocks she's posted so far.  The one below is the last block.  I haven't photographed all of them yet.  As as you can see from the last photo I used EQ to print templates.  If you read my 2+2=8 blog post you'll know I'm 'mathmatically challenged'. 

For anyone interested in the project here is the link to her blog:


My EQ template print out

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sparkly Me

Within my small group of quilting friends I'm known for two things; that I hand piece a lot of my quilts and that I like sparkly fabric.

You would hardly think that these two 'likes' go hand in hand.  Most people see hand piecing as a throwback to the antiquity of quilting, something not much in favor anymore.  And well,  sparkly fabric?  It sounds like stuff you would only use in kids projects or appropriate for a Halloween costume but I love it.  I love that it adds the unexpected to what might otherwise be a very plain and predictable quilt.  And my latest quilt proves that.

I named this quilt 'Sparkly Me'.  It's hand pieced and uses two different colors of sparkle fabric - one in white with a patterned sparkle motif and the other a deep, deep mottled blue (almost black) with sparkles all over.  These are mixed with two more fabrics in a small patterned dark grey and light grey.  And finally I used an elaborate printed focus fabric with a circular motif and black background that I purchased some years ago and held on to with no ideas for its final outcome.  It was during my quilt groups last retreat that the idea for Sparkly Me came about and I thought ‘I have the PERFECT fabric!’

My quilting group, Running  With Scissors, had begun routinely choosing a quilt pattern that we make separately and then come together when finished to compare how they all looked with our different ideas.  We've started calling this exercise our 'group quilt' though we work on it individually and it’s not one quilt passed among all of us.  Sparkly Me is the second quilt I created from this exercise.

The pattern itself is a very simple one.  I think the interesting aspect of this particular pattern is in what fabrics you use in its creation.  Because the individual finished blocks are large, 12 inches square, and the center of six of the 12 blocks are a large 8 inch square alone, it's the perfect pattern to use a focus fabric on that can be fussy cut.  My focus fabric is an elaborate print that lends itself well to mixing with a bit more 'out there' glitter to brighten it up.  Right now it's only a quilt top but I'm going to finish it soon using metallic thread for the quilting.  This is a different kind of quilt for me because it's the first I ever made that won't be used as a bed quilt.  It’s going to be a wall decoration for either my home or in my office - I haven't decided which yet.
Of course as I was putting a series of borders on  I attached it front to back instead of front to front.  Aaaaahhhh!  What can I say.  My sewing room was too hot so my head was fuzzy (that’s my excuse anyway).

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Hand Piecing Project

The majority of my quilt piecing is done by hand.  It’s not because I don’t have a great machine or the space to do the work.  It’s just that I prefer the process of piecing by hand.  I take pleasure in the creation process of the quilt as much as getting a quilt finished.  When I hand piece I find I really get to know the blocks and the fabric.  I like the tactile experience of working a needle through fabric at a slow pace.  And I like that I can take my piecing anywhere with me.  My husband and I carpool to and from work.  I get custody of the vehicle so in the afternoon when I go to pick him up, I can leisurely wait in the car and pull out my sewing while listening to an audio book.  I never mind having to wait for him because I really enjoy the time I get with my sewing.  Jinny Beyer has a lovely book out on the beauty of hand piecing. 
Right now I’m hand piecing Barbara Brackman’s Civil War quilt – the one she’s created a blog about.  As I don’t have a master plan in my head as to how the finished quilt will look.  I’m just cutting fabric as each block comes along.  I have a range of material I’ve picked out for the project set aside (browns, deep reds, orangy’s gold etc...) and most are CW repro prints though some are from our local Spot Light discount housewares place.  However I think once you become familiar with the typical printing layout of the 1860’s era, many contemporary prints will pass even though they weren’t created as reproductions.
I’ve finished three of the five weekly blocks so far and I’m in no rush.  This is going to be a yearlong project as Barbara is posting a block a week.  I’ve never participated in any kind of BoM (or in this case BoW) before so this is a first for me.  I think I enjoy reading the history of the blocks and the Civil War ear on Barbara’s blog as much as recreating the blocks.  If you haven’t yet checked out the blog here is the address:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Textile Art

I’ve never made a quilt that I couldn’t put on my bed to use as a blanket.
It isn’t because my quilts are strictly traditional – I think they’re rather innovative myself.  It’s just that I learned to quilt from my grandmother and her teachings and philosophy on quilting have left an indelible impact on me.  She would never dream of making a quilt that would be anything but utilitarian.  Hanging textiles on the wall wasn’t part of her experience as a quilter.  So when I learned to piece and quilt from her it was to make a blanket for the bed or a good sized throw for the couch.  Until recently all my quilts were made king sized because that was the size of my mattress.  So it’s been a challenge for me to break out of the mindset that a quilt is strictly functional.  I KNOW it doesn’t have to be, I just don’t always FEEL it.
To challenge myself I want to make a few quilts made solely for the purpose of being a work of art.  I have two quilts in the works at the moment that will be my first pieces of art.  One is my quilt groups ‘group quilt’.  I’ve named it Sparkly Me because I used glitter fabric in it.  The pattern that was chosen gave instructions for a small lap quilt and I’ve decided that since I’ve used sparkly fabric in it, I’ll just use it as a wall hanging so I don’t have to worry about the glitter eventually getting washed away in the laundry.  And the other is a triptych I’m making as a metaphor of my life.  It sounds deep I know but it’s very unpretentious. 
I know I’ll never stray too far from continuing to make beautiful quilts that are made to experience life as a blanket and all that entails; to be slept under, made love on, wrapped around in on a cold night watching TV, placed on the floor for a baby to play on and ultimately get washed 100 times until its faded, frayed, and just like the Velveteen Rabbit, becomes real because it’s used and loved.